A Communion Meditation
Jack Cottrell, July 2014

[For a recent communion meditation at the church where I serve, I brought a prop to the pulpit with me. It was a fairly large coffee cup that had a name engraved on it: the name of my wife, Barbara. I held the cup prominently in my hands as I gave the following thoughts:]

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39, ESV). What WAS that cup? What was IN that cup?

In Bible cultures a “cup” was a figure of speech for what one had experienced, or for the destiny one was about to experience. This cup could be something GOOD, as in Psalm 23:5, “My cup overflows” (or “runneth over,” as the King James Version says). I.e., David is saying that his life was full of blessings. On the other hand, the cup could be something BAD, especially some judgment received or about to be received from the hands of God. See Psalms 75:7-8, for example: “But it is God who executes judgment . . . . For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine . . . , and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” See Isaiah 51:17, which speaks of Israel: “Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath.”

Now go back to Jesus in the Garden. He surely could say, “My cup runneth over”—or is about to run over! But what was in the cup from which he was about to drink? What was he about to experience? Something good? NO! This was the night before his arrest, his trials, his beatings, his cross! He was about to drink from the cup of SUFFERING! Hebrews 2:9 says that by the grace of God he TASTED DEATH for every single person! He was about to drink the cup of suffering, the cup of death – but much more!

What was in that cup was nothing less than the wine of GOD’S WRATH! I know that sounds terrible, but that is exactly what it was! But wait—whose NAME was on that cup? (I apologize for bringing with me today a cup that does not have my name on it. As you can see, it says “Barbara.” Actually, I don’t have a cup that has my own name on it!)

But let me tell you this: the cup of wrath from which Jesus was about to drink did not have HIS name on it either! Whose name was on that cup? YOUR NAME—and my name, and the name of every person who has ever lived and will live. The content of that cup was not a wrath that Jesus deserved, but the wrath of God that WE ALL deserve because of our sins. The cup from which he was about to drink was the cup we should drink—by spending eternity in hell! But because of love Jesus took our place; he drank that cup instead of us.

In a few moments, when the emblems are passed, we will be holding a cup in our hand. What is in it? Grape juice, to be sure—but much more. This juice represents the blood, the life that Jesus gave in our place, for our salvation. For us, this is not the cup of wrath we deserve, but the cup of blessing that overflows because of Jesus. As we drink it we can be thinking about the words of Psalms 116:12-14: “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.”

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